Television

Saturday Night Live Decides the Matt Gaetz Scandal Doesn’t Rate a Dedicated Cold Open

A still from Saturday Night Live, showing Pete Davidson dressed as congressman Matt Gaetz, sitting on a talk show set couch next to Kate McKinnon as cartoon skunk Pepé Le Pew. McKinnon is spraying Davidson.
Second billing to Pepé Le Pew. NBC

You couldn’t ask for a more Saturday-Night-Live-ready news story than Matt Gaetz’s ongoing collapse. Since news broke on Tuesday that Gaetz was under federal investigation over an alleged relationship with a seventeen-year-old girl, everything about the Florida congressman’s life except for the “allegedly having sex with a minor” thing has been high comedy. There were the bonkers tweets in which Gaetz claimed that he and his father were working undercover for the FBI. There was the even more bonkers interview Gaetz gave Tucker Carlson, in which Gaetz reminded Carlson that he too, had once been accused of a sex crime, went on to suggest that Carlson and his wife once ate dinner with Gaetz and one of the women being investigated, and volunteered that no photographs existed showing him with child prostitutes, a charge that no one had publicly made before he brought it up himself on national television. There was the bizarre statement Gaetz released referring to himself in the third-person, which began “Matt Gaetz has never paid for sex” and got weirder from there. If that weren’t enough, Gaetz looks like he styles himself after Colin Jost, which would make for some easy stunt-casting. SNL’s staff is apparently serious about not letting Biden-era politics dominate the show’s cold open the way they did in the Trump years, though, because they put the Gaetz story in the last third of a talk show sketch in which Britney Spears interviewed Lil Nas X and Pepé Le Pew, and cast Pete Davidson besides. Check it out:

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That is an extremely unfunny cold open, but it’s still a landmark moment in television history, because if “a Republican with a pompadour goes on Fox News and does such a horrible job of denying sex trafficking allegations that Tucker Carlson gets mad at him” is no longer a shoo-in for a dedicated cold open, then SNL really has changed since the election. That’s probably good news in the long term, even if this week’s cold open gave Gaetz short shrift. Besides, the show didn’t completely waste the story’s comedic potential: Colin Jost picked it up again during “Weekend Update”:

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As nice as it is to see SNL switching their formula up a little bit, there’s always the danger of overcorrection. Imagine how quickly the country would collapse if Republicans came to believe that the only way to get an SNL cold open all to themselves was to be more of a disaster than Matt Gaetz!

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